The biggest story of BC’s loss to Duke earlier this week was turnovers. The Eagles surrendered 21 turnovers that led to 25 Blue Devil points. Turnovers have been a constant problem for the Eagles this season and that is not a problem you want to have when you’re heading into a matchup with a top 25 defense in the Virginia Cavaliers.
Defense was the story of the first half of this game on both sides. In the game’s early stages of the first half, UVA’s defensive scheme made it very hard for BC to score in the paint (they missed 9 first half layups) forcing the Eagles to rely heavily on the perimeter shot. Despite this, the Eagles managed to keep the game within reach.
Midway through the first half the Eagles defense really stepped up making it harder for UVA to get the ball inside. The Cavaliers went on an 8:35 scoreless run and BC forced 4 turnovers, made 3 blocks, and was able to take a 7 point lead.
DeMarr Langford Jr. and Justin Vander Baan checked into the game and were the big difference makers for the Eagles. Langford Jr. picked up where he left off against Duke and led the way for the Eagles with 7 points, including going 3 for 3 from the field. Vander Baan made a big impact on defense with two blocks that led to two big transition buckets, and then teamed up with CJ Felder on a third block that led to more points. At one point during the first half BC went on a 14-0 run.
Then with 3:44 left in the first half there was a TV timeout and everything changed. UVA began to reassert itself defensively and Jay Huff imposed his will in the paint. The Cavs’ big man ended the half with 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 blocks. The Cavaliers went on an 11-1 run to end second half and went into the locker room with a 29-26 lead over the Eagles.
Virginia started the second half much the same way they ended the first half on a scoring run with Huff continuing to be a menace for the Eagles. Huff owned the paint on both ends of the court seemingly scoring at will inside and denying any interior scoring attempts by BC. Huff finished the game with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocks. The Eagles also had trouble stopping Sam Hauser who had 17 points and Kihei Clark who scored all of his 12 points on field goals.
While on defense BC couldn’t stop the Cavaliers inside, just like in the early part of the first half, BC struggled getting interior points forcing them take tougher and tougher looks from the perimeter. Midway through the second half the Eagles were able to cut the UVA lead to 5 thanks to a field goal by James Karnik and a 3 pointer from Rich Kelly. However, this was the closest the Eagles would come to tying the game. The Eagles were outscored 18-11 down the stretch as the Cavaliers won the game 61-49.
Turnovers and points off turnovers have been the story for the Eagles this season but in this game they were more just a part of the larger problem. BC committed 11 turnovers which matched their lowest since the first game of the season against Villanova (small victories...?) yet UVA made it seem like BC had committed twenty with their defense and methodical offensive attack.
UVA suffocated the Eagles who only shot 30.9% from the field and 28.6% on threes. The scarcity of good looks from the field and from beyond the arc contributed greatly to the Eagles poor shooting numbers. In such a scenario with buckets hard to come by already, turnovers only exacerbated the situation. Even if BC had had fewer than double digit turnovers it would have made a comeback difficult.
The Eagles also didn’t take full advantage of the opportunities they did have. Remember that stretch where they held UVA scores for almost nine minutes? Well, BC went scoreless themselves for just over 5 minutes which is why they only had a 7 point lead. The Eagles’ ability to hold a top 25 team scoreless for that long is a good sign for the team going forward but in hindsight given how the game went it is a shame the Eagles weren’t able to build a larger lead.
Once again DeMarr Langford Jr. was a bright spot for the Eagles who led BC in scoring with 14 points. Meanwhile BC’s usual leaders struggled and the Eagles were already without Mikai Ashton-Langford and Steffon Mitchell, Mitchell’s interior presence was certainly missed, and Wynston Tabbs went 0-9 from the field and really seemed to be out of rhythm. Jay Heath only scored 6 points was just 2-10 from the field and 1-3 from beyond the arc.
While this game was more about UVA’s defense and Jay Huff, the problems that have plagued BC (turnovers, mistakes on defensive rotations, inconsistent shooting, etc.) were all still there and the fact that they don’t seem to be improving is concerning to say the least. This roster has talent, this roster can score, this roster can be competitive in the ACC, but Jim Christian needs to start fixing those persistent issues if any of this team’s potential is to be realized.
The Eagles return to action on Tuesday, January 12th when they welcome the Miami Hurricanes into Conte Forum.